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User to User: New Editor, Software Carousel, Pre-configured Palmtops a

User to User: New Editor, Software Carousel, Pre-configured Palmtops and More

By Hal Goldstein

Am I having fun now that the 8 MB and 32 MB double-speed palmtops have revitalized the 200LX part of our business. Thanks to the popularity of these upgrades, I have the pleasure of making a couple of announcements that will benefit the HP Palmtop community.

New HP Palmtop Paper editor!

 Our long-term readers should appreciate the first announcement. Ed Keefe, author of PC in Your Pocket, as well as numerous HP Palmtop Paper articles, subscriber disks, and other palmtop products, will become the new editor of The HP Palmtop Paper! Ralph Turner, who has done an excellent job the past year and a half, leaves to promote his book, Country Property Dirt Cheap: How I Found My Piece of Inexpensive Rural Land. When Ralph told me his plans, I panicked. It is not easy finding someone both knowledgeable and willing at this stage in the palmtop life cycle to take over the publication (especially in Fairfield, Iowa). I considered canceling The HP Palmtop Paper, since, as I have mentioned previously, it is no longer profitable in and of itself.

 Then it struck me. I knew Ed Keefe was taking early retirement from his college teaching position in August. I called him and asked if he'd like to edit The HP Palmtop Paper. In 15 minutes we agreed in principle to a telecommuting arrangement - Ed lives a couple of hours away, and so can drive down as needed. Fortunately, we have a number of excellent articles in the hopper for the next two HP Palmtop Paper, which will help us out until Ed can work full time. Rich Hall, Ed, and I will tri-edit the publication in the meantime.

 Ed brings technical savvy and a creative approach to Palmtop computing (just check out his article on hypertext viewing in this issue). He also possesses a teachers mentality. So expect his editing, his articles, his quick and basic tips to be clear and educational for all levels of palmtop expertise.

 Software Carousel available again

 The second announcement is related to a fun challenge. OK, many readers ask. I can now have an 8 MB and 32 MB palmtop but what can I do with it?

One answer has to do with a product called Software Carousel. Readers of this column will remember several articles I wrote about the product, well before the advent of 8 and 32 MB palmtops. Software Carousel extends the push-button capability of the palmtop to switch between applications. All palmtop users are familiar with being able to press the Appointment key or Phone key to switch between built-in software. With Software Carousel you add the ability to switch between DOS applications. So, for example, you could switch from 1-2-3 to Hypertext Viewer (HV - see Ed's column) with a simple keystroke combination, such as CTRL 2. Then press the 1-2-3 key to get back to Lotus. You could set up CTRL 3 for your favorite game and CTRL 4 for your editor/word processor of choice.

 Software Carousel runs well on an uncompressed flash card. It is even faster in memory on the 8 and 32 Meg double-speed units. If you use the EMM memory software that comes with the upgraded units, task switching becomes almost as fast as pressing the built-in application keys.

 Unfortunately, Software Carousel has been unavailable for about six months. Recently, we were able to contact the owners of the software and make an arrangement whereby Thaddeus Computing becomes the exclusive Software Carousel distributor for end users and dealers.

Setting up Software Carousel is not hard. Still, for busy people, the idea of setting it up and then customizing it may seem too daunting. Related to this is the fact that there is some great freeware and shareware that we have written about in The HP Palmtop Paper and can be found on our CD InfoBase. However, for many users there may not be the time to set things up properly.

In answer to this challenge, we've come up with a solution. When users send in their palmtop for a memory upgrade, we will, for a configuration fee, set up the palmtop with Software Carousel and the best freeware and shareware available. Other users can send in their palmtop for this Super Software Carousel configuration. Well also have an easy-to-install CD, for do-it-yourselfers who don't want to give up their palmtop for a few days. The CD will be sent to all purchasers, for backup purposes.

 What the pre-configured palmtop will look like

 The key to making this idea work is to combine Software Carousel with Harry Konstas HDM DOS menu manager. HDM is a wonderful menu program that looks like the MORE key application manager menu, but for DOS software. HDM is to Software Carousel as the MORE key (Application Manager) is to the built-in applications. In other words, our idea is that pressing CTRL 2 would take you to a menu of the best freeware and shareware DOS applications. When you press CTRL 3, you'll find yourself in a screen that lists a number of games to play. (See screens 1 and 2).

 Screen 1: Super Software Carousel Session using HDM menu program. Contains some of the best freeware and shareware applications.
 
 

 Screen 2: Super Software Carousel Session using HDM menu program. Contains some of the best freeware and shareware games.

 If you decide you don't want to use one of the pre-configured applications, well make it simple to remove it. Similarly, if you want to add your favorite DOS program, it will be as simple as adding an application to application manager. Alternatively, you can easily create a new session (CTRL-4) just devoted to your new application ( Sidebar).

 This list is not yet 100% accurate. Some items may be added. In some cases, we may have to withdraw software if the freeware author doesn't give us permission. IMPORTANT: The majority of this software is copyrighted freeware. However, some of this software (shareware) is distributed on a trial basis. If you like the program, you are expected to register it. The fee may range from sending a hello on a post card, to $45.

 The all-in-one printing, fast-backup-to-PC-or-ZIP drive, quick-restore-of-speed-and-memory-upgrade-drivers solution

 OK, you have an 8 or 32 MB palmtop. How are you going to back up your data? You can use serial transfer shareware like ZIP. COM, the HP Connectivity pack, or HPs free Transfile WIN 200 backup software. That is OK if you have patience, or if only a small portion of the data you store changes. Alternatively, perhaps you have an extra flash card to back up your data.

 However, in most cases you will want a fast backup option to make sure your data on your 8 or 32 MB palmtop is secure. The solution: the Trans Digital parallel port card. Place the Trans Digital card in your palmtops PC Card slot. Then plug in a special cable that lets you connect your palmtop to another PC, a ZIP drive, a printer, or any other parallel port device.

 The software you need to backup your palmtops data to a PC or ZIP drive is built into the low power Trans Digital cards flash ROM. Once you set things up, transfer is extremely fast and straightforward.

You can use the PC cards parallel port to print directly from the palmtop to any standard parallel port printer.

 As an added bonus, vendors who sell the Times2Tech 8 and 32 MB double-speed upgrade (see sidebar on next page), sell a custom version of the Trans Digital card. These custom cards contain in flash memory the speed and 32 MB memory drivers required for upgraded palmtops. Having this backup software on the PC card can save time and frustration, especially for restoring the speed driver. If for some reason the speed driver gets deleted from the palmtop, it is a little tricky to restore it. Clear instructions come with the speed driver. However, it is a little tricky because the palmtop screen gets right-shifted without the speed driver installed, and therefore is hard to read.

Note that if you already own a Trans Digital card, you can contact Trans Digital directly, and for a nominal fee they will install the speed and memory drivers.

News on upgrades

 We expect soon, but cannot yet commit, to have a solution for those 8 MB palmtop users unable to upgrade to 32 Meg. (If your palmtop was originally 1 MB, or has a serial number less than SG6, then you are in this boat). If you want to upgrade, contact us. By the time you read this, we may have a solution, or you may be able to simply swap your used 8 MB unit for a refurbished 32 MB we have in stock.

 There may also be a solution in a couple of months for 2 MB 100LX users to upgrade to 8 or 32 MB. Stay tuned.

 Longer lasting Duracells

 The folks at Duracell sent us a 4-pack of new, longer lasting AA Alkalines designed specifically for digital devices such as palmtops. Rich Hall, Handheld PC Magazine editor and I both grabbed a pair. Our unscientific impression was they were definitely better than normal alkalines, and close, but not quite as good as, Eveready lithiums. They are supposed to retail for $4.95 a 4-pack and be available in May.

 Go on the palmtop

 Sometime back I wrote about my favorite game, Go. Go originated in China and later became popular in Japan, and more recently has picked up fans in the West. One of the attractions of the game is the simplicity of the rules, and yet subtlety of strategy. Go is played on a 19-by-19 board. Black and White alternatively place stones on any of the 361 intersection points. The idea is to control more intersections than your opponent (see Screen 3).

 Screen 3: Go match between Palmtop Paper publisher Hal Goldstein and Steve Carder (see his profile page 17).

 Capture takes place by completely surrounding a group of your opponents stones. While you are trying to surround him, he is trying to surround you. At the beginning of the game, players place stones at strategic points near the edges and corners to establish secure bases. As the game progresses, battles take place in which each player tries to surround the other.

When I took an artificial intelligence course in the late 70s at the University of Illinois, we were told that Go would be most difficult, if not impossible, to computerize. Fortunately, the professor was wrong. Ishi Press has versions of Go available that do quite a nice job against novice and intermediate users. In addition, like good chess games, there are sample games, openings, and teaching exercise/problems that come with the game.

After I mentioned Go and Ishi Press sometime back, readers reported that the contact information was erroneous. I thought Ishi Press had gone out of business. However, Steve Carder, who is profiled in this issue, e-mailed me new contact information. Steve further challenged me to a Go contest via e-mail. We are up to move 41. I am black. I think I am winning, but its hard to tell; Steve may think otherwise. The nice thing is that I store the game on my palmtop. When I get the latest e-mail move, I add it to the board on the palmtop, ready for study and a countermove.

 I use version 7 on my palmtop. Steve tells me version 8 still works all right. Currently, Ishi Press sells version 9 for DOS, and version 10 for Windows 95. (The Windows 95 deluxe version has lots of features and study tools, and looks great in color. I recommend it to anyone interested.) Version 9 is too slow, even on my double-speed palmtop. Version 8 is apparently still available from ISHI Press (see sidebar).

 You can learn by playing on smaller boards such as 9 x 9. In fact, a 9 x 9 free version of the game called IGO is available on our CD InfoBase. The regular versions of Go have 9x9, 11x11, up to 19x19 options.

 A final note. I had occasion to e-mail the author of Go. As it happens, he is an HP engineer! He had never seen Go on a palmtop.

 P.S.

Today this issue is going to the printer, and (long story) at the last minute we find we have an empty page. Actually, this turns out to be a good thing, because it gives me a chance to make a few more comments and announcements that I thought would have to wait until next issue.

The future and nature of The HP Palmtop Paper

 As you look even at the ads embedded in this article, it is obvious the nature of what we do at The HP Palmtop Paper has changed. We not only report HP Palmtop news; we are becoming the news. This creates both an editorial and ethical dilemma. I certainly do not want The HP Palmtop Paper to become one big infomercial. On the other hand our company Thaddeus Computing plans to continue introducing new products and services that will not only perpetuate, but also enhance HP 100LX/200LX possibilities. Factor into the equation that The HP Palmtop Paper in its current format can not sustain itself from subscriptions and advertisements.

 What to do. Frankly, we will have to work together and welcome your comments. The good news is that Ed Keefe will be taking over editorial duties and he will be offsite. That means he can focus on the normal editorial content of the publication (tips, tricks, profiles, how-to articles) independent of our product development and marketing efforts. I promise you, based on articles we have planned for the coming year, the editorial content will get even better.

On the other hand we will certainly review, discuss, refer to, and advertise Thaddeus Computing products. We have always taken a supportive rather than condescendingly critical view of the products we have reviewed over the past 6 years. That will not change when we discuss our products. Our Reviews policy has always been to describe the customer profile of users who could benefit from the reviewed product. Whenever possible we will continue to get outside reviewers to look at products we sell. We will always have a liberal return policy in case the product does not meet your expectations.

 Finally, you will see our new catalog enclosed with this issue. Over time, I expect to move much of our advertising to the catalog to help keep The HP Palmtop Paper clean.

 The bottom line is this. Yes, obviously profit (and survival) is a motive for us as we introduce new products and services. However, I feel that we are truly serving HP Palmtop customers with our new direction. We will continue to enhance editorial content of The HP Palmtop Paper, while at the same time offering solutions to help Palmtop users be more productive.

 Hooking up with D&A Software

As we continue to add more products, technical support becomes an issue. This is a challenge for us. We do have lots of Palmtop savvy in house. However, the unemployment rate in Fairfield, Iowa is less than 2%. Finding the right people to handle support could be tricky.

 Avi Meshar of D&A Software and his team have agreed to take over most of technical support on our software. D&A Software represents the other major creative new product force in the HP Palmtop market, and we may be working together on a number of projects. They are truly palmtop knowledge and support experts. Included in their commercial offerings are WWW/LX Plus, ABC/LX, TimeTracker/LX, VOLT/LX, Magnify, and freeware HV and PalEdit.

 We have decided to begin carrying their products (and they will carry ours). In particular WWW/LX Plus is a great product for memory-upgraded palmtop users. With the extra memory, users can use a PC Card modem in the empty slot, and the browser and email reader WWW/LX Plus can reside on the internal C drive. In addition, our upgrades due cause some battery degradation, and we recommend nickel metal hydride 1350 MaH rechargeables. ABC/LX although not absolutely required, does a great job monitoring and maximizing usage of these rechargeables.

 Finally, Avi emailed me the following announcement today, and I think it is important enough to work into this last minute page.

 Avis WWW/LX Plus Announcement

 D&A Software Inc. announces the release of the second major version of it Internet Solution for the HP Palmtop computer. This version is now available from D&A Software Inc (www.dasoft.com) as well as D&As Dealers - please refer to the Web page for a list of dealers.

 WWW/LX Plus is a product that consists of a graphical Web Browser (HV), an email package (Post/LX), and a Newsgroup program. The program manages the message base on screen, managing multiple email addresses, multiple ISPs, and newsgroups. Folders can store messages for later reading. Messages may be filtered into these folders by using sophisticated filtering specifications.

 Extensive context-sensitive help is available by simply pressing the Help (F1) key. The program documentation file is available with the product. Read the extensive feature list of the product in our Web page at www.dasoft.com.

 WWW/LX Plus is now available in Demo mode, so you may try it before you purchase. The product files are available on our Web page. It is the full product, except that it limits transmissions to 16K. This limitation is removed when you register the product and pay for the license. A new license is $89.00; upgraders from previous versions of WWW/LX may purchase an upgrade from D&A Software Inc. for $30.00. Details on the Web page.

 The new Post/LX program has a built-in facility to register the user, and send payment information confidentially (and SAFELY!) to D&A Software, Inc. for prompt processing. (Purchasers of WWW/LX Plus after January 1, 1998 will receive the upgrade free of charge, with proof of purchase date.) Using the built-in registration is the EASIEST and FASTEST way to purchase a license or an Upgrade! More details on the Web page.
 
 

Shareware/Freeware mentioned in this article

Commercial products mentioned in this article

Super Software Carousel

iPhone Life magazine


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